First, I would like to begin by expressing that this World cup has shown how fast the game improves and grows from year to year worldwide. All matches are being dictated by team tactics, preparation and the ability of staff and players to execute a game plan. We will be looking at how Colombia were able to have a dominant victory vs. Poland by using their strenghts from a individual and collective standpoint. We hope that this will also provide the readers a framework to understand Colombia's style of play and individual players when watching it's upcoming match(es).
Colombia and Poland came into this match needing a victory to stay alive in the group stage.
Colombia's line up was a 4-2-3-1.
Poland's line up was a 3-4-3.
The match began with a very energetic Polish attack which early on demostrated the game plan by Poland. Overload the final third by having three high center-forwards and two wingbacks on each flank, send crosses into the box to create goal scoring opportunities, capitalize on set pieces and win the ball back on Colombia's half to continue attacking.
Visual Clip: Poland attacking with numbers early in the match.
Colombia was able to settle into the game by defending corner kicks efficiently and breaking the polish front and middle line of pressure when possession was gained. It forced Poland to defend deeper which provided Colombia the opportunity to implement their key attacking tactics for the match:
1. Create a 4-man midfield using James Rodriguez and Juan Quintero to break lines.
2. Overload the right flank with Juan Cuadrado (Right Winger) & Santiago Arias (Right Fullback)
3. Place Johan Mojica (Left Fullback) to play as Left winger and utilize his strenghts: Speed, 1v1 attacking ability, crossing and ability to cover ground in transition.
As we spoke earlier, Colombia set up in a 4-2-3-1 but used the ability to have Juan Quintero play in the Center Mid role which freed James Rodriguez to roam the Middle and Final Third in an effort to break defensive lines. As shown below, Colombia used James Rodriguez to create a 4-man midfield and thus drag Poland out of a tight defensive shape.
Visual Clip: Colombia Midfield Overload to Break Lines.
The other key attacking component of Colombia's attack was their ability to attack through the flanks by using the characteristics of their players. Having a player with the physical attributes to attack 1v1, cover ground and cross effectively that Johan Mojica possesses helped Colombia leave a 1v1 situation in the left flank with success. Having a very technical fullback in Santiago Arias join Juan Cuadrado to create 2v1 situations in the right flank helped Colombia hold Poland's left wingback and left winger in a defensive shape.
An area that improved as the game progressed was the ability of Juan Cuadrado to use his 1v1 attacking skills to eliminate polish defenders and create more dangerous attacking opportunities.
Visual Clip: Colombia Right Flank Overload
The disappointment that many football fans around the world felt when watching Poland in this match was due to their predictable and non-adaptable approach to the game. The key tactic showed throughout the match by Poland was playing with 3 center-backs whose roles were to find long passes behind the backline, 2 center-mids whose main roles were slowing down Colombia's attacking transition. 2 high wingbacks to find crosses into the 18yd box, 3 center-forwards to create goal scoring opportunities by winning aerial duels.
Due to Colombia dropping Cuadrado to defend the wingback from Poland on the right flank and Barrios dropping to form a back 3 shape when needed. Poland's attacking tactics were never dangerous and due to their inability to adapt, they were often playing to Colombia's strenghts.
Visual Clip: Poland Attacking in the Final Third.
In conclusion, this match was won by Colombia due to the utilization by the coaching staff of the individual player characteristics within the tactical gameplan. Many pundits were tentative to support having two center-mids with similar characteristics play at the same time but with the correct preparation and game plan, these players dominated the match. This World cup will be won by the team that is able to place the strenghts of their players into the correct gameplan that exploits the opponent's weaknesses. Every game is different and it holds more truth after what we have see so far in this World cup.
Visual clip: Colombia Goals.